New distillery on tap near The Diamond

From left: Barton, Vicki, Brad and Barry Haneberg. (Nick Davis Photography)

There’s a new player entering the Richmond booze scene.

Virago Spirits will begin production in May at 1727 Rhoadmiller St., where the distillery will produce rum, gin, brandy and other liquors.

The family business is led by brothers Brad, Barry and Barton Haneberg and Brad’s wife Vicki. The Hanebergs’ backgrounds are in law, investment banking and sales, and conjured the idea for a distillery after deciding to go into business together.

“We went through a number of industries we thought would be fun,” Brad said. “Eventually we came down to beer, but with beer it just seems like there’s so much going on. We thought about craft distilling and thought that it’s an interesting play for us.”

They wanted to further differentiate from other local distillers such as Cirrus Vodka, Belle Isle Moonshine and James River Distillery, and decided to focus initially on rum.

Virago’s initial offering will be dubbed Four-Port Rum, a blend of rums distilled in Jamaica, Barbados, Nicaragua and Panama. The initial batch was shipped to Richmond via the Netherlands.

“We decided that bourbon seemed to be the hot thing and we probably can’t do too much new there,” Brad said.

Virago’s spirits will be made in a 660-gallon pot still which was purchased from Hardy Cognac, a 150-year-old distillery in France.

Barry said there is only a handful of U.S. distilleries that use traditional pot stills.

pot still

Virago’s spirits will be made in a 660-gallon pot still. (Mike Platania)

“Most craft producers these days use hybrid stills, which are more versatile. We just wanted another way to differentiate,” he said.

“It’ll allow us to make complex liquors,” Brad added.

Virago is leasing the 11,000-square-foot Rhoadmiller Street facility, which was previously used to manufacture cabinets. It’s located just down the street from Castleburg Brewery and Hardywood’s Richmond brewery.

Many of Virago’s spirits will be aged in barrels, which in part motivated the Hanebergs to take such a large space.

“The space is to start out and grow into,” Barry said. “We have room for a second still, when and if demand requires it.”

The Hanebergs did not disclose the amount spent to open Virago. They are self funded with lending support from Virginia Community Bank.

While the plan is to eventually become more of a production facility to distribute in and around Virginia, Brad said Virago will start out focusing on its 50-seat tasting room at the front of the building, which should open in May.

“When you drive up and down the street, it just looks like a nondescript industrial park. But the goal is when we’re done with it, we’ll have a curtain on the front door and you’ll come through that curtain and be like, ‘Whoa this is not what I expected,’” he said.

Brad said the group plans to keep the large metal rig around back where they’re considering adding a patio area.

Johannas Design Group was the architect on the project, with Dominion Construction Partners as the general contractor.

The word Virago is a Latin term referencing women of great strength, courage, integrity and vision.

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Bruce Milam

A rummery! Those who know me will attest that this is a long awaited improvement in the Richmond embidement scene. Though, as Jimmy Buffett would say, “I’m not a drinking man”. Don’t believe him either!